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Featuring the earliest published recordings of Barry Guy & Evan Parker, percussionist John Steven's presents transitional sextet and septet performances of his groundbreaking free improv group from 1966 & '67 with Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherford, Kenny Wheeler, and Derek Bailey.

Spontaneous Music Ensemble
Withdrawal (1966/7)[REISSUE]

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Withdrawal (1966/7)[REISSUE] (Emanem)

Label: Emanem    
Released in: Great Britain    

"Here is a missing link between the first two Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) recordings to be published. The music on CHALLENGE (recorded 1966 March and issued on a long vanished Eyemark LP) is mainly free jazz, with composed themes framing improvisations which are mostly accompanied by the rhythm section. On the other hand, KARYOBIN (recorded 1968 February, originally on Island and now on Chronoscope CD CPE2001-2) is radically different - a distinctive, translucent group improvisation with virtually no traces of jazz left. (Some earlier recordings of this highly influential SME or "atomistic" approach were recently issued as SUMMER 1967 on Emanem 4005.)

This CD, however, does not give the whole interim story - thirty years later one can only listen to the aspects that were recorded. The SME was then a collective grouping with John Stevens and Trevor Watts being the prime movers (and composers). Regular performances, mostly at the Little Theatre Club in London, featured some or all of these seven musicians (plus a few others) in various combinations, using pre-composed material at times. All the while, new approaches were being tried, but many did not make it to tape.

WITHDRAWAL was composed and recorded as the soundtrack to a 35 minute film of the same name, produced and directed by the American George Paul Solomos. The film was hardly begun, due to a funding crisis and a dispute with the British Film Institute. However, two (slightly imperfect) mono tapes of music, recorded to be used as the soundtrack, have survived. Special mention must be made of Kenny Wheeler's very fine playing in what is almost a concerto on PART 1, with Paul Rutherford's trombone and Trevor Watts' oboe providing most imaginative foils. PART 2 contains particularly excellent playing by Watts (on alto saxophone) and Wheeler. As before, Barry Guy's role is limited to providing a flexible drone.

These recordings are the earliest recordings to be published of the then recent SME recruits, Barry Guy and Evan Parker - and they will probably remain the earliest. It must be said that not much of Parker is heard here - he says he felt overawed in such company! The other four musicians had all been on the CHALLENGE LP, whilst Wheeler had appeared on numerous jazz records during the previous decade.

For the next three months Stevens was resident in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, with one or two other SME musicians joining him for shorter periods. The group still continued during this period under the direction of Watts, who also invited Derek Bailey to join them at the Little Theatre Club, so that when Stevens returned, the group comprised seven musicians who all went on to have very distinguished careers in free improvisation and/or other areas of music.

It was decided to record an LP to be called WITHDRAWAL that would include a reworking of some of the material used for the soundtrack, plus a new suite composed by Stevens while he was away. The remainder of this CD (tracks 5-11) is the music that was then chosen for that LP, but not issued until now.

This session is one of the earliest recordings of Bailey playing free music. He appears to play excellently thoughout, but is unfortunately rather under-recorded.

The revisiting of the WITHDRAWAL material is quite different from the soundtrack recordings. For instance, Guy no longer has the restricted droning role he had before. The most obvious item in common is the glockenspiel motif played intermittently on the soundtrack by Stevens, and now played by Parker (who does not even get to play a saxophone on the two major tracks).

SEQUENCE 1 features some very fine trombone and trumpet work, and a prime example of what Victor Schonfield calls "start/stop" drumming. Stevens still used a fairly orthodox jazz drums and cymbals kit - the small SME kit (first recorded on SUMMER 1967) was some months off. SEQUENCE 2 is particularly notable for Watts' flute playing (over a rare example of Guy playing piano), while other tracks feature his equally strong oboe playing, A year or two later, he decided to concentrate exclusively on the soprano and alto saxophones, and abandoned his other wind instruments. SEQUENCE 3 is a sparse composed theme over a busy backdrop (based on C4 written for the mid-1966 Jeff Clyne Quartet SPRINGBOARD date).

SEEING SOUNDS AND HEARING COLOURS was a suite composed and directed by Stevens with specific musical textures, timbres and 'colours' in mind.. It reveals the group at an historically significant transitional point, experimenting with instrumentation and composition, before taking the plunge with free improvisation; but the group were not wholly satisfied with these experiments and Stevens later felt he was 'getting side-tracked from the natural, organic approach towards improvisation'.

This INTRODUCTION featuring oboe and bowed cymbal was inspired by a scene depicting raindrops falling into pools of water in a natural history film about New Zealand. MOVEMENT 1 starts with a flourish that ends with a long oboe note leading into a collective improvisation. MOVEMENT 2 is an improvisation built around the note C. The final MOVEMENT 3 begins with three chords preceding a group improvisation that is terminated by the material from the start of MOVEMENT 1 in reverse.

As well as containing historically important transitional music, this CD can be also enjoyed, thirty years late, as being excellent in its own right by any standards."-Martin Davidson, from the liner notes

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Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Septet recordings
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EMANEM & psi
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Product Information:

UPC: 5030243504022

Label: Emanem
Catalog ID: 5040
Squidco Product Code: 22214

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2016
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Tracks 1-4 recorded September 1966 and tracks 5-11 recorded March 1967 in London by Eddie Kramer. Reissue of Emanem 4020.


Kenny Wheeler-trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion

Paul Rutherford-trombone, percussion

Trevor Watts-oboe, alto saxophone, flute, voice, percussion

Evan Parker-soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, percussion

Derek Bailey-amplified guitar

Barry Guy-double bass, piano

John Stevens-drums, cymbals, percussion

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Track Listing:

1. Withdrawal Soundtrack - Part 1A 5:19

2. Withdrawal Soundtrack - Part 1B 5:07

3. Withdrawal Soundtrack - Part 1C 7:51

4. Withdrawal Soundtrack - Part 2 13:50

5. Withdrawal Sequence 1 11:24

6. Withdrawal Sequence 2 10:54

7. Withdrawal Sequence 3 "C4" 2:43

8. Seeing Sounds And Hearing Colours - Introduction "Puddles, Raindrops & Circles" 4:04

9. Seeing Sounds And Hearing Colours - Movement 1 4:45

10. Seeing Sounds And Hearing Colours - Movement 2 "C" 5:17

11. Seeing Sounds And Hearing Colours - Movement 3 7:24

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